the power to talk about the world independently of the relationships of knowledge that humans create.
Isabelle Stengers’ Cosmopolitics I has only one review on Amazon that basically amounts to: “this shit is hard.” That a single two-star review might be steering potential readers away from the work is disappointing because, while Stengers is dense, the text is incredibly rewarding.
The question of the relationship between a text on science studies and a stumbling progression towards a Paranoiac Noise Theory may not be obvious from the surface but the links, indeed, are present. Science is a question of knowledge and authority. And thus:
If learning to think is learning to resist a future that presents itself as obvious, plausible, and normal, we cannot do so either by evoking an abstract future, from which everything subject to our disapproval has been swept aside, or by referring to a distant cause that we could and should imagine to be free of any compromise. To resist a likely future in the present is to gamble that the present still provides substance for resistance, that it is populated by practices that remain vital even if non of them has escaped the generalize parasitism that implicates them all.
What is noise but knowledge that is unrecuperated into the system? Knowledge that resists the “obvious, plausible, and normal?” What is paranoia but a means of recuperating noise, of finding significance in that which is defined as insignificant? And thus noise and paranoia gamble on the present just as Stengers suggests.
Let us use our illusion.
Every living being may be approached in terms of the question of the requirements on which no only its survival but also its activity depend, and which define its “milieu.” And every living being brings into existence obligations that qualify what we refer to as its behavior: not all milieus or all behaviors are equal from the point of view of the living; and the difference is especially relevant when we address those obligations we impose on the living in the name of some knowledge we wish to obtain.
The question that Stengers brings up (not knowingly, perhaps) is a question of use and misuse. In directly questioning the move from experimental physics to theoretical physics is opened to the approach of the paranoiac.
There are no neutral narratives.
Can one appropriate her discourse? Rip, remix, and rewrite her questions of knowledge production and authority outside the scope of science and science studies? To take her work and, as a fellow philosophical refugee, use it (amplified through an 8×10 stack) to question other discourses, other authorities, other modes of knowledge production?
Are the means I give myself, the approach to practices in terms of requirements and obligations, appropriate to the problem I want to bring into existent practices, namely, the escape from a generalize polemic that puts every practice in a position of disqualifying and/or in danger of being disqualified?
Because, as she notes:
The true subject of description is now a disorderly multitude.
And conducting that disorderly multitude towards a revolution (articulating Dr. Gonzo’s rising sound) is a question that must remain open, that cannot be closed, that recuperates the remainder even as it (inevitably) excludes, selects, and chooses.
Nevertheless, they are strange poets indeed, for the power they have of asking questions that, by right, should be of interest to all humans, of making discoveries on our behalf, and announcing the truth of the shared world, obviously constitutes on component of their passion.
all quotes from:
Stengers, Isabelle. Cosmopolitics I. Trans. Robert Bononno. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Print.
Composed while listening to Fishtank Ensemble, Woman in Sin.